Saturday, 28 June 2008

In the still of the night

I often walk outside at night, usually during the ad breaks on telly (getting more frequent and interminably longer on the commercial free to air networks), to see how many meteors I can spot (7 in 15 minutes last night), how many different frog calls there seem to be (5), and generally just to "commune with nature".

It's fortunate that we live on acreage far enough away from "civilization" to not have much in the way of light, air or noise pollution, but at this time of year, with the inversion layer, sound travels more easily, so I usually get treated various neighbours' taste in music ('60s and '70s folk rock this time), diesel generators, dogs barking and vehicles returning home along the network of gravel roads.

In between human activity, I can make out nature sounds from native critters like flying foxes chattering noisily when they've discovered some blossoms or seeds, bats - with their echo location (which is pretty amazing when one zooms past close to your head!) owls, frogmouths and other nocturnal birds, possums scooting along the branches in the canopy, and padymelons and bettongs foraging in the undergrowth and keeping the grass short.

But every now and then, there is no sound .... not even the wind blowing through the leaves.

It is completely and utterly still. Completely and utterly silent.

There is only my breathing and heartbeat, or tinnitus. Instinctively, I begin to breathe more evenly, deeper, relaxing into calm.

Then .... the wind picks up, a bird calls, a dog barks. The spell is broken. I return indoors.

Thursday, 26 June 2008

Steve Carell turns gay for George Clooney

Steve Carell and Anne Hathaway were guests on Rove last Sunday (22/06/08), to promote their new film, having attended the premier of the Get Smart movie on the Gold Coast earlier in the day.

Steve Carell is a funny guy, but you'd expect that from a man who has already made his mark in the genre. And he seems to have successfully straddled that curious divide they have in the US, where you're allowed to be a leading man on TV or in movies, but not both.

He appears to be down to earth, no attitude to speak of showing, and knows how to go with the flow: a good thing when you're being interviewed by a bunch of Australian stand-up pros, all trying to impress the Hollywood man that they're funny too.

The "dry heave" improvs between Steve and Rove were entertaining, and a close thing, given Steve was probably jet lagged and tired from the whirlwind of the publicity tour, so I'm not being parochial here, but I think Rove won that contest. Could be a different story if Carell was in top form.

Anne Hathaway on the other hand, even when she's obviously feeling the effects of the schedule, is seriously funny, and seriously smart. Not that you'd have picked up on it, from the impession I got, with the host and leading man talking over her, trying to one-up each other in the dash to the funny.

When she did manage to get a few impeccably timed words in ("that's what she said"), it was easy to see why she got the part of "99". From the brief glimpse I saw, she has comic timing and delivery up there with the best (Madeline Kahn immediately sprang to mind).

I especially liked her modest put down about her appearance being due to the work of the "pretty committee" rather than any natural traits. And after a kangaroo hop across the big pond, premier launch, and a round of promos, she looked totally glamorous. I'd need a salvage job from the crew at Renovation Rescue to look a tenth as good.

Of course the highlight with guests on Rove, which to my mind, can provide some interesting insights into their head space, is the challenge of "20 dollars in 20 seconds", and the coup de grace, "who would you turn gay for?"

You'd think minders would give them a better briefing on what to expect, given the reactions of some previous guests (Kevin Rudd anyone?); but Anne and Steve both handled it with aplomb, Anne even pondering that "when in Australia..." and deciding she'd turn gay for Cate Blanchett, while Steve opted for a fling with George Clooney.

So they won their $20 bucks each, with MOH commenting that he thought Steve had "palmed" the Aussie $20 and replaced it with another note. Didn't notice myself, but if so, nice job. Anne gave her $20 to an audience member on the way out. See the interview (You Tube).

All that remains to be seen now, is whether their visit was worth it. I was sufficiently amused, so might even go see what all the fuss was about.

Wednesday, 25 June 2008

It's full of stars

MOH bought me a telescope from Dick Smith Electronics for Xmas. We think we got it amazingly cheap, less than $130 for 75mm Celestron, but we didn't have much of a chance to use it until recently, because of the weather; overcast, grey and dreary.

But now the crisp, clear winter nights the north east coast is known for, are more frequent, we take it outside after dark, to get a close up views of all our favourites. It works a treat.

The moon - Tycho crater - WOW.

It's one thing to get a squiz through binoculars, it's another to get a steady view through a telescope. So cool! We are now skywatching with enthusiasm.

The rings of Saturn - what a buzz! Seeing them with my own eyes!

And last night, Jupiter rising, with 7 moons visible, in an almost straight line from the five o'clock mark. I've only ever been able to see the Galilean moons before.

Then a quick look at galactic centre before walking out into the paddock and pointing at the Southern Cross, just visible over our tree line, before getting cold and heading back inside to warm up.

Yahoo ... Love it!

Tuesday, 24 June 2008

The sky isn't going to fall after all

On LateLine last night, a commentator appeared, to my jaundiced ear, to make out that a carbon tax of $185 per household would be a burden on consumers, after the introduction of the Australian Emissions Trading Scheme (ETS). MOH* and I rejoiced.

Our household is not living the high life by any means, we do need to watch the pennies - closely; but if all us Aussies are going to end up paying, is just $185 per year in increased charges at the five year mark (2015), I reckon we've got away with our greenhouse gas belching ways cheap at twice the price!

Carbon tax nothing to fear - report |
NSW Business Chamber: Building and sustaining business

* MOH My Other Half

Monday, 23 June 2008

More Laws

As Jennifer Byrne said on the "Einstein Factor" the other night, "the internet is full of information, which is different from knowledge." Or words to that effect.

List of eponymous laws - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Peak oil - suck it up people!

I am getting really annoyed with all the hand wringing and "woe is me" talk about petrol prices.

Suck it up people!

It's not like we haven't be warned - for the last 50 years.

Industry insiders, forward thinking politicians, conservationists and environmentalists have been talking about Peak Oil since before the first "oil shocks" in the early 1970's.

And what have our politicians and industry "leaders" done?


So now we have our pollies talking about reducing the fuel excise by 10 cents a litre - great idea, show me where the money is coming from to replace the shortfall, if you insist on providing this kind of knee jerk "relief" to the "battlers".

And as for "taking a blowtorch to OPEC" Oh Puuleease! Don't you lot get it? There ain't no more easy oil left!

Not to mention the "diplomatic" tone of the sound bite. I'm beginning to wonder about this mob.

And our motoring organisations! "More roads - more roads!", is the catchcry. Such foresight. Haven't you heard of the basic Murphy's Law of "more"?

That is, "The amount of junk you've got, will expand to fit the space you've got to put it in."

"Junk" in this case, being vehicles on roads.

A little vision and leadership goes a long way. Unfortunately, all we have been prepared to vote for, are people with the vision of Mr Magoo and a leadership style based on the "Peter Principle".

Oh, to have a leader like the "Governator" right now! (Wait a minute ... did I *really* just write that?!)